Starting a business involves a lot of moving factors, but the most important one is financing. You are going to need to spend some time evaluating your business model and writing your business plan before you can really determine the type of loan you need and the best way to secure that loan. As your business grows, your lending needs will change, so take the time now to understand the differences between lending and investing so you can be ready when your company starts to grow and needs to adjust its financing.
“Not all businesses meet business loan eligibility requirements,” was Ali's initial comment on this topic. “Most banks have an income eligibility threshold of 1.25 times your expenses, including the repayment amount. [So] even if you do meet the requirements, think carefully before taking on the loan, and be sure you can service the repayment terms.”
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Many traditional lenders provide funding to franchisees, so this should be a top-line option for those looking for a loan. Each lender will have different eligibility requirements and loan products so examine documents in detail before signing on the dotted line. You will need a good credit rating, a solid application package, a down payment and some form of collateral.
Although you’ll often need to make a specific financial commitment and meet certain regulations to open a franchise, there’s a lot you get in return. You’ll get the built-in name recognition that brings customers in, as well as guidance on everything from hiring to keeping local regulators happy. Before you get started, there are a few important things to know.
Franchisees who are operating a franchise location typically have their pick of financing options. We think the streamlined SBA loan from SmartBiz is the best option for those looking for up to $350K in working capital. With low SBA rates and 10-year repayment terms, these loans do not squeeze cash flow. Plus, SmartBiz has drastically reduced SBA loan funding times. Prequalifying online takes just a few minutes and they get loans funded in as little as 2 weeks.
Your second option invokes the idea of a “warmup” period for your business. Instead of going straight into full-fledged business mode, you’ll start with just the basics. You might launch a blog and one niche service, reducing your scope, your audience and your profit, in order to get a head-start. If you can start as a self-employed individual, you'll avoid some of the biggest initial costs (and enjoy a simpler tax situation, too). A payment processing company, such as Due, can be a big help when you are struggling to invoice and follow up professionally.
A number of costs go into the launching a franchise. Initial costs include paying for professional advisers such as a lawyer to look over contracts and an accountant to advise or manage your finances. You’ll also need to invest money up-front for anything your business will need: real estate or lease payments, inventory, equipment, supplies insurance, licenses, recruitment, employee preparation, and signage. A grand opening event and initial marketing expenses will also add to your startup costs. You’ll also want to account for ongoing expenses such as professional services, supplies, employee pay and benefits, rent or property taxes, utilities and maintenance.
Branding, services, promotions, products, pricing, prints, blogs, advertising, research and social media -- all of this is marketing. With all the marketing options out there, it can be difficult for small businesses to know what to do. Marketing is a concentrated effort to do push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer. Customers need to hear your message several times, so brand, brand, brand! Here are some simple steps to help you market your small business:
Proof of ability to pay: As Ali told me, banks want to be sure you’re positioned to make the loan payment on time each month. You’ll need to present detailed financial statements showing that your income is at least 1.25 times your operating expenses, including the new repayment amount. For example, say your business makes $15,000 a month and your current expenses are $10,000. With the loan repayment added to your operating expenses, you need to be sure your income still exceeds the recommended 1.25 threshold.
Despite these indicators, financing remains a problem for potential franchise owners. According to Entrepreneur magazine (January 2013), there’s still an 18 percent lending shortfall in the franchising industry. In a bid to boost franchise ownership, many franchisors are taking matters into their own hands and offering financing programs of their own. Meineke, The UPS Store, Gold’s Gym, Masasge Envy and Instant Imprints are just a few examples of franchisors now offering financing to qualifying first-time and multi-store franchise owners.
5. Social Media: Depending on your type of business, you will want a social media presence. LinkedIn, with more than 380 million members, is regarded as the business site for connecting with other businesspeople and offers excellent posting features for articles and blogs. Facebook is more of a social friends site than a business-focused site, but it’s also an excellent tool for “getting your word out” to your friends and customers. Both Linkedin and Facebook allow you to set up a commercial page for your new business.
Also called a business cash advance, this option is only applicable to those having cash flow problems who would need ten thousand dollars or less. Cash advances usually have very high interest rates meaning that you will almost certainly pay more in the long run than the initial loan, especially if you miss a payment. Be certain you can repay on time before going this route.
The lender will want to know how much funding you are seeking and how the loan proceeds will be used. Will the loan be for equipment or capital expenditures? Expansion or hiring? Increase in inventory? Enhanced sales and marketing efforts? New research and development of technology? New product development? Expansion into new facilities or territories?
Franchises are consistently vulnerable to cash flow issues thanks to the many mandatory expenses they face all throughout the year. On top of operational expenses and growth-related investments, franchises must obey the fee guidelines of their parent company, or “Franchisor.” Royalty and advertising fees are deducted from weekly or monthly sales. Some franchise owners must pay for new employees to undergo special training programs. Certain upgrades might be required for specific dates, and the national marketing campaigns that come from the aforementioned deduction must usually be supplemented by local advertising.
The franchisor: Some franchisors help finance new franchises by waiving fees or partnering with lenders to help franchisees get loans. If a company offers funding, it’s usually listed on its website and in Section 10 of the Franchise Disclosure Document. Compare the terms of the franchisor’s financing with other options to find the best source of funding.
The good news is both traditional and alternative lenders are making more loans. A strong economy and record low unemployment rates in 2018 are making all this possible. But a good credit score still carries great value, and if your score happens to be on the low side, here are some lenders you can take a look at when it’s time for getting a small business loan.
Eligible funds received through this program can be used for business conversion, repair or enlargement; the purchase and development of land or buildings; the purchase of equipment; debt refinancing as long as new jobs will be created as a result; and/or business and industrial acquisitions when the loan will save and/or create jobs and/or the loan will keep the business open.
Shelton recommends meeting with a loan officer a few weeks to a month ahead of time to personally meet the loan officer and find out if the bank is currently interested in lending the type of loan you are looking for: “You want the loan officer to be on your side,” Shelton explains, because the loan officer usually doesn’t have the approval level to say yes to a loan.
You can arrange to borrow from ordinary commercial banks or credit unions for your new venture. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), new franchise owners have a higher tendency to borrow from commercial banks than new business owners. Lenders prefer advancing cash to new franchises over other new businesses since they already have trust in the brand and business model of the business being funded.
An SBA loan has two major disadvantages for franchises. First, it takes a significant amount of time (30-90 days) to fund. Second, you can’t use the funds from an SBA loan to cover many startup costs, including franchise fees. Those will have to be paid as an out of pocket cost. However, if you can live with these two disadvantages, then SBA loan rates are typically the lowest you’ll find. You can use our SBA loan calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.
We love this lender for their sterling reputation, excellent customer support, and reasonable terms and rates. But again, you’ll need to already have an established franchise to qualify, as well as good credit. This loan also takes longer to apply for (and receive) compared to most other online franchise loans, and it can potentially take a couple months for the money to come through. You’ll need to submit all the documentation you’d need to get a traditional SBA loan, and it will be helpful if your franchise is already listed in the SBA Franchise Directory. Even though there are a few more hoops to jump through than with other alternative lenders, SmartBiz is still one of the quickest ways for a franchisee to get an SBA loan.
A lockbox advance is a high risk merchant cash advance using a credit card split, but the way its split is different than a conventional MCA advance. When a lockbox is involved, all deposits are put into a new bank account setup by the funder, where the funder will then collect its share of the daily batches, and then release to the merchant. The process is a bit slower, taking up to 24 hours for the money to hit the merchant’s account.
Using a stock loan (securities-based financing) allows a potential franchisee to leverage the value of their stocks without giving up ownership of the stocks. Securities based financing allows potential small business owners to get fast, affordable funding, while also having the ability to keep all the upside of keeping their stocks (dividends and stock price growth). Funding usually comes in the form of a line of credit backed by the stocks’ value.
You do need to create a list of prospects before you reach out. This will help you focus on targeting the right areas and the right people. Do your research. If you’re selling a high-end product, you don’t want to target/cold-call customers in a low-income neighborhood. And, if you’re selling a product suited to children, should you really focus on the section of town that all the college students live in?
Small business owners are passionate about their ideas and tend to get excited about the little details, leaving the financials alone in the back of their business plan. It’s a mistake to put your financial information as an appendix or otherwise in the back because “it says that finance is not important,” advises Shelton. Your lender wants to feel comfortable that you have a plan for managing your finances, including paying back your loan, so keep your financial information up front in your business plan.
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Supporting both the operation and expansion of a growing small business often requires some additional financial support. Getting a small business loan or grant can help you bridge the gap when you need to make capital investments, increase your workforce, or move to a larger space. To help you decide which type of funding might be right for you, here are a few great small business-financing options: